Puslapio vaizdai

to offer their services to any hirer, they were deprived of the means of doing so on equal terms; while nominally free, they were free only to sell their labour to the worst, not the best advantage. Formerly of course this had all been different. Society was constructed then on another model, in which no part was independent of the other, but each member of a group had his allotted place, and sphere of recognised duty, and share in the general result. The ancient organisation of English industry was communal, gradually passing through the manorial into the feudal type.1 In the two earlier of those types the position of the labourer was not merely secured, he was of the essence of the self-constituted group; in the third, all individuals were very closely united in terms of mutual obligation. "When the feudal system prevailed," says Mr. Wade,2 "a regular chain of subordination subsisted from the highest to the lowest in the community; all thought of personal independence was precluded, and each individual looked to his next superior for maintenance and protection.

[ocr errors]

The tacit compact was service to the lord in exchange for maintenance to the villein; and this compact doubtless subsisted during life; for though men, by a monstrous abuse of social power, may be converted into property and treated like cattle, they cannot, like wornout horses, be killed or left to perish when all the service they are capable of yielding has been got out of them." With the decline of feudalism, and the growth of personal liberty, this implied responsibility of man to

1 "Introduction to Factory System," pp. 69-75,

2 "History of the Working Classes," by John Wade, chap. iii. (Chambers & Co., 1842).

man, and this conception of permanent obligations attached to employment, became ever less, though they had not yet quite ceased to exist at the period under review. The better class of masters still recognised a certain fellowship and fraternity with those they employed, and the worse claimed a closer authority over them, and employed persons still regarded themselves as owing some deference, and even gratitude to their employers, who not infrequently, it must be added, abused their trust.1 It required that fuller development of the wages system, under the impulse of unchecked competition, which was to ensue, to bring about that complete change in these relations which is one of the marked economic characteristics of our time.


The origin of wage payments is a subject of much interest to historians, and marks a REMUNERATION OF definite epoch in economic progress. In English history this epoch seems to have occurred very early, worming its way by insensible gradations into the manorial and feudal constitutions. At first, all dues were labour dues, and all payments were in kind. Presently some of these began to be commuted, soon a greater number,2 and at length all. Long before the Industrial Revolution was in full progress commutation was general. But the method of calculating wages even after this progression was by no means always of the

1 This was especially shown in the treatment of apprentices (infra, chap. v.). But farm labourers, and even domestic servants, a century and a-half ago were often subjected to brutalities and indignities that can with difficulty be realised now.

2 This portion of our country's economic development is very succinctly and admirably narrated in a recent work, "Economic History and Theory," by W. J. Ashley, M.A., Vol. I. (Rivingtons, 1888).

wholly optional kind it has since become. It was at first customary; or regulated by the corporations and trade societies; then regulated by statute; then by the local magistracy. Even as late as 1813 magistrates met in Quarter Sessions to assess wages; and later still they were subsidised by grants in aid paid out of the poor-rate-a survival of which custom may be traced in our present system of outdoor relief, as a survival of a corporate regulation is preserved in the obligations recognised as binding in certain professions. in respect to fees-; and as an acknowledged aid to workmen's wages this system was abolished only in 1834. The exterior organisation of industry was in a condition similarly transitional. Previous

COMMERCE. to the commencement of the Industrial Revolution England had laid the foundation of that great colonial empire which it was her distinguishing political characteristic throughout to consolidate,1 but had not hitherto been specially noted as a trading country. During the Middle Ages she had been too far removed from the centre of maritime activity (which still lay in the Mediterranean) for that position, and after their termination and the discovery of the New World, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and France had respectively all been before her in availing themselves of their common proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which was thenceforth to be its principal highway. But in the course of the eighteenth century a variety of untoward events which occurred in those countries,2 and of surprising successes which fell to us, had the result of leaving her (towards

1 "The Expansion of England," by J. R. Seeley, M.A.; passim (Macmillan & Co., 1884).

2" Expansion of England," pp. 92-7.

its close) a long way ahead of the first three in foreign possessions and trade, and engaged in a desperate duel with the fourth, destined to terminate likewise to our advantage. By the end of it, England and France were practically the sole remaining combatants to dispute the possession of the New World, and France was already worsted, even as she was at the same time utterly routed in India, where to all appearance she had been firmly established only a few years previously. True the closing years of the same century saw some of our fairest colonies lost in America, but they were lost more in the political than commercial sense as yet, for whilst the United States became an independent nation they remained English still in many important aspects; with a common language, literature, religion and sentiment; and the same requirements for whose fulfilment they had been hitherto accustomed to depend on us. The war once over, commerce between these countries increased in an unprecedented manner; as likewise did that with the West Indies, viewed then as of even more importance. In the East Indies; where events were of course different; the general result was similar, and the same may be said of many other territories in various portions of the globe now rapidly passing under our sway. aggregate of subject states was formed under the influence and domination of Great Britain, on which, it was picturesquely said, "the sun never set," and all of which were at first of necessity our customers.


How powerfully such great events benefited the

1 "History of British Commerce," by Leone Levi; chap. v., p. 57 (Murray, 1872).

producing industries at home is almost beyond all calculation and need not be more particularly insisted on. The demand for English goods was suddenly multiplied many hundred times and the utmost resources of the new system taxed for the supply. But it is important to point out the impetus they gave also to the various operations of exchange, and the extent to which the Industrial Revolution penetrated there likewise. For the limited area covered formerly by commercial enterprise an area of unknown extent and indefinite possibilities had been substituted; and in place of the commercial qualities suited to cope with those earlier conditions a new type of character was required. The slow, solid, trader of the past; content with small profits, and often personally conducting his own adventure; gave place to the keen speculative merchant of to-day, trading commonly on borrowed funds, engaging in any form of business. likely to be profitable, and insatiate in the pursuit of riches. The vicissitudes of foreign markets were thus added to the other novelties described already with bewildering and even alarming results. This epoch it must be remembered was not only that of England's vastest colonial expansion, and earliest great mechanical triumphs, but (in its inception) too of her most extravagant burst of speculative madness. It was the era of the South Sea Bubble, of the Mississippi Scheme, and of the thousand-and-one enterprises of a like kind that for a while greatly possessed men's minds. That particular burst of madness passed indeed away, but it heralded the approach of a new era as obviously different in the spheres of trade and commerce as of other departments of the new industrial life.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »